(Tokyo Shimbun: January 22, 2015 – p. 3)
By Shoichi Takayama in Cairo; Teiichiro Nakamura
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe frequently used the phrase “the best way is in the middle” during his Middle East tour from Jan. 16-21 to appeal for stability in this region. Advocacy of the golden mean was aimed at publicizing Japan’s unique contribution to the achievement of Middle East peace and strengthening Japan’s presence amid the rise of extremism.
“The best way is in the middle” is one of the teachings of the Islamic prophet Muhammad in the hadith. He is said to have made this remark before people in luxurious attires and poorly dressed people. Muhammad had also warned against “going to the extreme” and had expounded on the importance of the middle road.
Abe used this phrase in a speech in Egypt, the first country he visited on this trip, on Jan. 17, stating this in Arabic. He pointed out that “Japan and the Middle East share the same respect for tradition and the value of the middle road,” citing the cultural similarity to appeal for the Middle East’s wisdom in achieving peace.
In his news conference on Jan. 20, after the threat to execute Japanese nationals was issued, while he criticized the Islamic State’s extremism, he stressed that “the best way is in the middle.” He also said that “extremism and Islamic society are entirely separate things,” indicating his hopes for solidarity with the Middle East states in finding a solution.
Abe normally does not use the term “middle road.” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga explained at his news conference on Jan. 21 that the use of the phrase was meant to “emphasize the importance for the Middle East countries not to fall into extremism and to work for stability in their people’s livelihood.”